When The Lean Startup was published in 2009, many companies were slow to embrace the ideas it introduced. “We’re not a startup,” they replied. Although Eric Ries uses the word “startup” in the title of his book and Steve Blank wrote specifically about customer development as it pertains to startups, startups are not the only companies that benefit from customer development.
Startups certainly have a higher degree of uncertainty than mature companies; they are still searching for a business model, a distribution strategy, a customer base. But larger, more mature companies also can’t assume that their models will remain static. Markets and technology change. In addition, larger companies often find it difficult to shift attention and resources away from profitable lines of business in order to explore new markets and areas of innovation—leaving them ripe for disruption. (Kodak, which write about in the past, they enjoyed over 100 years of success before missing the boat on digital imaging and declaring bankruptcy in 2012.)
Customer development, with its focus on small-batch learning and validation, can promote internal innovation. Intuit, for example, has launched multiple products using customer development—including SnapTax and Fasal. General Electric is using lean principles. So is Toyota, the New York Department of Education, and the White House’s Presidential Innovation Fellows program.